MAY is Bike Month. But so is October, February and July for Caila Brown.
She’s one of many Savannahians who depend on bicycles as their primary means of transportation year round.
Brown, the community manager at ThincSavannah and chair of the Savannah Bicycle Campaign board, became a full-time bike commuter four years ago after the demise of her 1993 Nissan Pathfinder.
“The battery had been having issues for about 6 months and then it was broken into,” she explains. “Rather than spend more than $2,000 to fix everything, I realized that I hadn’t needed a car in the past 6 months. I didn’t really miss it.”
She sold the Pathfinder and never looked back.
National Bike Month, sponsored by the League of American Bicyclists, is intended to encourage people to voluntarily place themselves in the same situation the nonfunctioning Nissan put Brown in 2012. Organizations across the country plan events and programs that make it easy to try cycling and, it’s hoped, choose to make bicycling a healthy part of their daily lives.
Experimenting with commuting and transportational cycling helps people realize getting around by bike is enjoyable, practical and economical. But Brown said it also helps people see the need to improve cycling infrastructure.
“I want more people to try something new and to put their feet in someone else’s shoes (or on someone else’s pedals),” Brown says. “For some people bicycling is a fun, elective way to get around — but for many, it is their only mode of reliable transportation. The first few miles can be an eye opening experience.”
Brown is organizing the Savannah Bicycle Campaign’s largest celebration of Bike Month to date, with events throughout May.
Finding a dependable bike at a reasonable price is the first step for many people who want to take advantage of cycling’s many benefits. On May 7, from 10 a.m. – 2, p.m., SBC is holding a used bike sale at 1301 Lincoln St. Proceeds from the sale benefit New Standard Cycles, a program that reconditions donated bikes and gives them to people who need affordable transportation. Bike accessories and parts will also be available for purchase.
“Let me tell you what I think of bicycling,” wrote Susan B. Anthony. “I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance.”
In this spirit, SBC will host the fourth local observance of Cyclofemme, a worldwide event that celebrates the past, present and future of women in cycling. Savannah’s Cyclofemme Ride will depart from 1301 Lincoln St. at 2 p.m. on May 8. The casual ride is suitable for people of all ages and abilities. Helmets are strongly encouraged.
The life of Matthew Kohler will be celebrated on May 14 from 2-5 p.m. at Moon River Brewing Company with the fourth annual Matt’s Moon River Cruise. Kohler was killed by a driver while riding his bike in Bloomingdale on July 26, 2012.
The event— which features a press conference, bike ride, and party in the Moon River beer garden featuring The Accomplices — is designed to raise awareness of roadway safety strategies and raise money for educational programs sponsored by Georgia Bikes! and SBC. Tickets are $20 and include a limited edition Matt’s Moon River Cruise T-shirt when purchased in advance online.
May 20 is National Bike to Work Day and SBC will offer free coffee from the Foundery Coffee Pub, and healthy treats from Enmarket and Beatnix Superfood and Juice Bar to bicycle commuters at the corner of Lincoln and Henry streets, starting at 7:30 a.m.
The fifth annual Pedal Medal Award Celebration, presented by SouthCoast Health, begins at 6:30 p.m. on May 26 at the Historic Savannah Foundation’s Kennedy Pharmacy. The event recognizes individuals who have made Savannah safer and friendlier for people who ride bikes.
This year’s Pedal Medal award recipient is Kristin Russell, owner of the Sentient Bean. Gordon Parks will be honored as SBC’s volunteer of the year. The event includes drinks, hors d’oeuvres and a silent auction. Tickets are $50 and available on the SBC website.
Starting this month through the end of September, the National Bike Challenge will encourage people to ride more often through friendly competition and the chance to win prizes. Participants track miles ridden through the challenge website and can form or join teams of coworkers, friends or classmates.
In addition to the National Bike Challenge, Brown has issued one of her own.
“I challenge everyone to try and replace two less-than-two-mile trips per week with a bicycle instead of a car,” she says. “You’ll be surprised at how much more connected you feel to your community.”
More information on Bike Month events in Savannah is available at bicyclecampaign.org/events/category/national-bike-month-2016/
John is executive director of the Savannah Bicycle Campaign.